During normal times, the Cambridge Main Library has printers out for use by patrons. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Cambridge Main Library is testing a service to help bridge the technology gap during the Covid-19 public health emergency: remote printing. Users can upload documents to the library’s Remote Printing Service website, then call to arrange pickup of their printouts at the Main Library during normal contactless holds pickup hours.

The service allows up to 25 free black-and-white pages a day – and doesn’t yet allow for additional pages, even for a fee, according to a Tuesday email from the library. The previous limit was 10 pages.

People who need a computer or Internet connectivity may borrow a Chromebook, mobile hotspot or both through the library’s Takeout Technology service. “Patrons can now do from home nearly everything they used to be able to do on computers inside the library. They can do word processing, they can get online and now they can print documents,” said Reinhard Engels, the library’s manager of innovation and technology.

The library plans to expand the service to its branches if the pilot is successful.

There have been criticisms and questions around why Cambridge’s libraries stay closed – and at times have even shut down contactless pickups – as businesses in the city and libraries in surrounding cities and towns open. Some neighboring communities’ libraries even allow people inside for browsing. Cambridge’s system has opted for more cautious options and, with remote printing, continues to adopt methods of keeping residents outside its buildings.

“We are glad to provide access to additional technical resources, especially to those who do not have access in other ways, during the pandemic and in line with public health safety protocols,” said Maria McCauley, the city’s director of libraries.

This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.

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